Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

The Power of the Cardinal-King
Louis XIII (Richelieu, P.M.) [1610-1643]

During the rest of his life Richelieu's chief aim was to make France great abroad. He was far more King than Cardinal. In Germany, a war called the Thirty Years' War had begun. It was a war between Catholics and Protestants. The Emperor of Germany, a Prince of the house of Austria, was upon the Catholic side, which was the stronger. Richelieu did not wish the house of Austria to become more powerful. So he who had crushed the Protestants at home took their part abroad. Besides this, the French fought in Spain and in Austria. At one time indeed French armies were fighting in Spain, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands all at once. At first they were not always successful, but in the end they won victory after victory. Before he died Richelieu saw the power of the house of Austria curbed, and France of greater importance among the countries of Europe than it had ever been before.

But while Richelieu made France great abroad, at home he ruled as a tyrant. He did what he thought was best for France, but he did it in high-handed fashion, and his tyranny made for him many enemies. Again and again there were plots against him. When they were discovered the leaders were punished with pitiless sternness.

Queen Mary, who had once been his friend, hated him; Queen Anne, Louis's wife, hated him; the Duke of Orleans, Louis's brother, hated him, besides many more. The King himself did not like him. Yet in spite of all Richelieu was so great a man that he kept his place of power, and forced his enemies to obey him.

Once the King became so ill that it was thought he would die. At once Richelieu's enemies gathered, planning how they would get rid of their enemy. Even Richelieu himself thought his day was over, and that his work for France must cease ere it was half done.

But the King did not die, he grew better. Then Queen Mary tried all she could to poison his mind against Richelieu. He was a villain and a traitor, she said, who plotted to make himself king.

Torn with doubt Louis left his mother and shut himself up in his room. Throwing himself on his bed he tossed about trying to think, tearing at the buttons on his coat. He must choose between his mother and his minister, and he loved neither one nor other.

But at length Louis yielded to his mother, and Richelieu was sent away.

The court was in an uproar of joy. All the Cardinal's enemies crowded round Queen Mary and Queen Anne, glorying in the news. They did not trouble to go to the King, for what power had he?

But they rejoiced too soon. Richelieu was making ready to flee when a messenger arrived bidding him go to the King at once. Gladly the Cardinal obeyed. When he came Louis received him with every mark of favor. "Continue to serve me," he said, "and I will take your part against all enemies."

Too weak to resist the torrent of his mother's words Louis had only given way in seeming. But so utterly had the Cardinal's enemies been deceived that this day was ever after known as the Day of Dupes.

Once more Richelieu triumphed over all his enemies. He became more powerful than ever. The Queen mother fled away to Brussels, and after a life of adventures and troubles she died in misery and poverty in Cologne, ten years later.

But Richelieu had still many enemies, chief among them the King's brother, the Duke of Orleans. Again and again he plotted the Cardinal's ruin and death. Once the plot all but succeeded. The murderers walked close behind the Cardinal, the Duke beside him. It only remained for the Duke to give the signal for the Cardinal's death. But at the last minute his heart failed him. He could not give the signal, and the Cardinal escaped.

The last plot of all was led by the Marquis of Cinq-Mars, a splendid, proud young man, who had become a great favorite with the King. In order to amuse the King Richelieu had himself brought this young man to his notice. Louis became so fond of him that he allowed him to do what he liked, and soon Cinq-Mars's pride and insolence knew no bounds. Cinq-Mars was gay, and splendid, and eighteen; Louis was melancholy, and grave, and forty. And these two strange friends were forever quarrelling and sulking like a couple of children, forever calling in the Cardinal to make up their quarrels. Cinq-Mars began at length to be jealous of Richelieu, who had befriended him, and he did his best to turn the King against his great minister, and plotted his death.

Richelieu well knew of these plots. He watched and bided his time. Then suddenly one day an unknown person sent him the copy of a traitorous treaty between the King of Spain and Cinq-Mars and his friends.

Richelieu at once sent the treaty to the King. Cinq-Mars was seized and imprisoned, and along with one of his friends named De Thou condemned to death. De Thou had not joined in the plot, but he had known of it and had not told. "Ah, sir," he said, turning to Cinq-Mars upon the scaffold, "I have some right to complain of you, for you are the cause of my death. But God knows how I love you. Let us die together, let us die bravely and win heaven together."

And so these two magnificent young men died for plotting against the life of a sick old man who had not many months to live. For Richelieu was by this time so ill that he could not walk or even sit. He was carried about in a sumptuous litter which was like a room. In it were his bed and his work table, and a chair for his secretary. It was hung with crimson silk curtains and carried by eighteen soldiers of the Guard. It was so large that the gates of the towns and villages through which he journeyed were too narrow to let it pass. But all through his life Richelieu had swept men and things out of his way when they opposed him.

"I go to my end," he said. "I overturn all, I mow down all. Nothing stops me and, in short, I cover all with my red Cardinal's robe."

Now the walls of towns and cities were battered down to let his sickbed through.

He met death bravely. To the very end he was busy with affairs of state. "Do you forgive your enemies?" asked the priest as for the last time the Cardinal received the sacrament.

"I have never had any but those of the King and the state," proudly replied the dying Cardinal-King.

So, proud and hard to the end, he died.

Richelieu had set France high. He had made the King who was his slave the greatest King in the world.

"The minister," it was said, "made the King play the second part in the kingdom, and the first in Europe. He lowered the King, but he exalted the reign."

He was feared by all, loved by hardly any. When the people of France knew that the terrible Cardinal with the unbending will was dead, really dead this time, after so many attempts to kill him, there was an outburst of joy. Bonfires were lit, people danced and feasted as for a wedding or a coronation.

The King, too, eased from the yoke which had borne him down all these years, was glad. Yet he altered nothing; he obeyed Richelieu even now that he was dead.

Little more than six months after the Cardinal's death his royal slave died too. He was a sad, world-weary man who seemed glad to be done with life.

"Thank Heaven!" he said quietly when he was told he had only a few more hours to live.

He died on the 14th of May, 1643, having reigned thirty-three years exactly.